A Descriptive Statistics Exploration of Spatio-temporal Patterns in Inventive Activities in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Ben Vermeulen, Inga Zvarich, and Beatrice Messmer

Abstract The findings reported in literature on spatio-temporal patterns in knowledge flows in inventive activities are mixed. We discern two basic theories. Firstly, breakthrough inventions require acquiring alien knowledge outside the region. Externalities then stimulate co-location of subsequent incremental innovation activities. Secondly, breakthrough inventions require cross-fertilization of tacit knowledge from different industries, which requires co-location. After this, progressive codification and technological crystallization facilitates diffusion and collaboration over greater distances. We formulate several additional hypotheses on spatio-temporal phenomena in knowledge flows. We then conduct a descriptive statistics exploration of forward citation graphs of breakthrough inventions of an originator in the pharmaceutical industry. We find indications for several distinct spatio-temporal phenomena following a breakthrough. We find progressive globalization in collaboration within groups of inventors and provide several potential causes. In addition, we also find indications for increasing spatial dispersal of groups of inventors collaborating locally on follow-up technology. Moreover, we find increasingly local follow-up, i.e. that the distance between groups of inventors of cited and citing patent becomes smaller. We provide several suggestions to extend this study.

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